Armenians Fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh in 'Direct Act of Ethnic Cleansing' by Azerbaijan
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"Enormous Refugee Crisis"
More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians have fled the territory they've called home for centuries.
Upwards of 85 percent of the population is now seeking refuge after Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, took over their ancient homeland.
Families packed into cars and trucks, with whatever belongings they can carry, have been arriving in Armenia after Azerbaijan opened the only road out of Nagorno-Karabakh last week.
They say they're fleeing for their lives.
Armine Ghazaryan, her husband and four children, are among the refugees. She said, "When the war broke out, children were outside and they came to me screaming 'the war has started'. The bombardments were from all sides. The children were crying. To be honest, I also was scared."
Naira, a refugees who's 70 years old, said, "I went to bring the kids home, I was next to the Kirov bridge and at that moment the shelling started. Kids were crying, I tried to calm them down."
An ethnic Armenian woman from Nagorno-Karabakh carries her suitcase to a tent camp after arriving to Armenia's Goris in Syunik region, Armenia, Sept. 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Vasily Krestyaninov)
Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan calls it "a direct act of ethnic cleansing." He says without concrete action soon by the international community, they are just "creating moral statistics for history."
"The exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh continues as a result of Azerbaijan's ethnic cleansing policy. Analysis shows that in the coming days there will be no more Armenians left in Nagorno-Karabakh. This is a direct act of ethnic cleansing and deprivation of a homeland, as we have been telling the international community for a long time," he said.
Joel Veldkamp of Christian Solidarity International calls it a refugee crisis of immense proportions.
"Many of them are fending for themselves. Many of them we've seen are sleeping in their cars or sleeping in tents or sleeping in the streets of the city of Goris, which is close to Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia," Veldkamp said. "Armenia is not a rich country by any means. This is going to be an enormous refugee crisis, an enormous challenge for all the eight organizations working to help these people."
Armenians have lived in Nagorno-Karabakh for centuries, but it has been at the center of a bloody conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia since the late 1980s when the two former Soviet countries fought a war during the collapse of the USSR.
The territory has a rich Christian history that is now at risk of being wiped out.
There is a fear that Armenia itself, one of the oldest Christian countries in the world, is probably the next target for the Islamic regimes in Turkey and Azerbaijan.
The United States and other Western countries have so far only expressed concern about the refugee crisis.
Veldkamp said, "A lot of Armenians right now are very upset because this blockade lasted for nine months and they were crying out for help during these nine months, and it seemed like the global church really didn't listen."
Operation Blessing sent boxes of food and hygiene products to Nagorno-Karabakh in the months leading up to this crisis. Now, it's moving to begin helping refugees who are arriving in Armenia.
CBN's Orphan's Promise has also been on the ground in Armenia for more than a decade and is prepared to work through its network of churches to assist in the relief efforts.
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